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Some Easter traditions not hard-boiled

April 07, 2007|By PEPPER BALLARD

Some Easter traditions never change: Sunrise services were to commence at dawn today, ham will be sliced in homes and local restaurants as part of Easter spreads and chocolate rabbits topped pastel baskets across the area.

Other holiday traditions, such as the Easter bonnet and the hard-boiled Easter egg, aren't faring as well.

Meanwhile, other twists on some old staples - organic chocolate and sugar-free sweets - are cropping up.

Pastor Richard Hembrock of Holy Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church in Sharpsburg was to bring the message of Easter to parishioners from several Sharpsburg-area churches and others at 6:30 a.m. today during a sunrise service at Antietam National Battlefield's observation room.

Hembrock said he believes the Easter tradition of the sunrise service will survive as a religious symbol.

"It's to catch the first ray of sun as a symbol of hope," he said. "It brings all the Christians of different denominations together. It is a community worship service."

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Some secular Easter traditions have changed over the years, however,

One growing candy trend, according to Marisa Bluestone, a spokeswoman for Wal-Mart, is that more and more people are buying the treats for themselves. Many of those doing so are between the ages of 18 and 34 and those older than 55, she said.

Wal-Mart customers buy so many Reese's and Cadbury Crme Eggs during the Easter season that if the treats were placed end-to-end, they would stretch 3,000 miles, Bluestone said.

Likewise, the number of Marshmallow Peeps bought by Wal-Mart customers during the season would stretch - beak to tail - from New York City to Los Angeles, Bluestone said.

Tradition is alive and well at The Candy Kitchen stores in Waynesboro, Pa., and Frederick, Md., where owner John Leos said his 105-year-old candy company continues to supply the basics, only better.

Using traditional German molds, the stores' Easter mainstays of chocolate rabbits, chocolate crosses and chocolate "hens on a nest" remain most popular, he said.

Dark chocolate, which recently has been touted for its antioxidant powers, has become more popular, he said.

Newly added, Leos said, is an "edible yellow ducky," a chocolate duck made from a Rubber Ducky mold.

"Easter is a unique holiday," Leos said. "It's gift giving and it's children and because spring is in the air, it has a whole different feeling ... Christmas has warmth, Valentine's Day has romance and with Easter ... it's a rebirth and they feel happy. And chocolate makes them feel happy."

While chocolate cravings may remain largely unchanged, other food traditions have shifted.

Lynn Little, a family and consumer sciences educator with University of Maryland Cooperative Extension in Washington County, said the days are pretty much gone when hard-boiled decorated eggs were placed in Easter baskets or were hidden for hunts.

"Tradition used to be that you left the hard-boiled eggs in the Easter basket all day," she said.

These days, leaving eggs out in room temperature for extended periods of time is discouraged because of contamination concerns, she said.

"Food safety has just become such a big issue over the past few years as we have become more conscious of what makes us sick," she said.

Even some family recipes that might have required undercooked eggs are getting shelved or altered, she said.

Of the restaurants open for Easter, ham - baked sugar cured Virginia ham, glazed country ham and glazed pit ham, among other styles - topped menus.

Other items listed on Easter menus included fried chicken, breaded shrimp, roasted turkey, crab imperial, mashed potatoes, stuffing, green beans, buttered corn, breakfast foods and fresh fruit.

Little said she encourages holiday menus that contain less fat.

Although she could not speak about widespread trends, Little said she believes some families are walking the health-conscious line.

As people have changed their eating habits over the years, some have altered the way they dress for Easter services.

Some representatives of churches - Catholic, Baptist, Methodist, Brethren - said a few of their parishioners might still wear hats for Easter services, but not many.

Hembrock said that at one time, "A bright bonnet was a sign of joy. Most people wore drab clothing during Lent and when Lent was over and Easter came, it was a springing forth in all of its glory to emphasize the resurrection."

Hembrock said the bonnets or hats seemed to fade as a tradition as the women's rights movement gained strength.

Known to many as "The Hat Lady," Vikki Nelson almost always wears a hat and, she said, is almost always "in the minority" - even at church.

"I think that a lot of fashion that we see today, I don't see it ever turning back to being as fancy as it used to be," Nelson said. "There's a certain appreciation when a lady puts a hat on - not a ball cap ... - there's a certain ambiance that she brings by wearing a hat."

She said it seems the hat-unfriendly hairstyles of the 1950s and 1960s helped cut into the popularity of hats.

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